There is an excellent program on Radio four narrated by Michael Portillo on the late and great ‘Mr Right’: Bill Buckley. It is worth an hour of your time and in between the wit of Buckley, Michael Portillo throws up some interesting points about the difference between the Conservative movements in the US and the UK.
There are some great archival highlights, such as a few snippets of his famous 1965 Cambridge debate with the novelist and civil right’s activist James Baldwin, as well as many other peaks into the plethora of his adversarial battles on the iconic Firing Line, a show that was to run for thirty-three years.
A key point for Portillo is his argument that US Conservatism as influenced by Buckley is more ideological as distinct from its UK variety. Here Portillo uses the word ideological precluding the often negative connotations that surround the word, instead taking it to mean the thought necessary to construct the ideas. This was Buckley’s genius, to be the voice of thoughtful Conservativism, with power enough through the arguments contained in The National Review to convert Ronald Reagan from an instinctive Democrat to a Republican bibliophage.
As the right sorely misses the ideas of Buckley in the US, we are the worse for having lacked the public intellectuals with the spirit and brilliance to ignite a similar passion in this country. Listening to the Reith Lectures yesterday morning with the engaging statist political philosopher Michael Sandel discuss markets and morality, one can only imagine the battle Buckley would have fought with him over Sandel's ideas, which as things stand would sit so comfortably in the unthinking minds and unchallenged mouths of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians of this country.